'Ethnographies of US Empire'
April 24-26, 2011, Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York
Organizers: Carole McGranahan, (U. Colorado) and John Collins (Queens College and CUNY Graduate Center)
This workshop engaged contemporary US empire from an ethnographic perspective, seeking to add field-based anthropological research findings, questions, and manners of examining systems of knowledge and social ontologies to the historical and political analyses that have dominated the field of colonial and imperial studies. But it also sought to do more than 'add ethnography and stir.' In taking up recent calls for more and sharper ethnographies of empire, organizers hoped to bring anthropology and its methods to bear on US empire, as well as consider how empire in turn shapes and re-shapes ethnography. What does it mean to examine empire ethnographically? How might an apparently enduring or reanimated imperial present be addressed and contested through careful, empirically grounded research? How might anthropologists develop ethnographic questions, agendas, and methods adequate to considerations of contemporary imperial formations? What might such an anthropological project mean in relation to broader politics and knowledge practices outside academia? Most basically, then, how might the study of empire alter what ethnography is and does? The workshop's collective goals were thus to sharpen understandings of empire as well as of anthropology's contributions to its analysis and contestation.